Delhi HC says no to single mother’s caste for children

‘Certificate can’t be given unless proved that they are deprived’

Updated - September 21, 2020 03:41 pm IST

Published - September 20, 2020 11:19 pm IST - New Delhi

In a significant verdict, the Delhi High Court has ruled that children of single mother belonging to Scheduled Caste community, whose father belongs to forward caste, cannot be accorded caste certificates unless it is established that they have suffered deprivations, indignities, humilities and handicaps faced by persons belonging to the caste community.

“In an inter-caste marriage between a tribal and non-tribal, the determination of the caste of the offspring is a question of fact to be decided on the basis of the facts adduced in each case. It has to be brought out that the children have suffered from any disability or disadvantage because of the abandonment by the father,” a Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad said.

The court’s observation came while rejecting a plea of a single Scheduled Caste woman, who married a man from a forward caste, seeking caste certificate for her children following their divorce.

Complete seclusion

The woman is a senior ranking Air Force Officer from Assam, who married her colleague in the Air Force. Two children were born during the marriage. Following their divorce in 2009, the children remained with the single mother, who has been staying at her official accommodation at various Air Force Stations as per her postings. She contended that the children have never grown up with their father or interacted with the members of his community and there is no likelihood of their being considered as a part of their father’s community.

Senior advocate Sanjay R. Hegde, representing the woman, argued if a father is from a Scheduled Caste community and is singly raising the children, then that alone is considered sufficient for issuance of a caste certificate.

However, if the child is brought up by a single Scheduled Caste mother, who had married someone from the forward caste, then apart from her certificate, it is also required to be demonstrated that the child has faced deprivations. This, Mr. Hegde said, put the mother to a more disadvantaged position which is arbitrary, discriminatory and unsustainable in law.

The High Court, however, said that the woman has “miserably failed to rebut the presumption drawn against her that the children have the caste of their father, who belongs to a forward caste”.

“Apart from contending that the ex-husband of the appellant [woman] has re-married and has nominated his children from the second marriage for all the benefits and that he has not provided any alimony to the appellant, no evidence has been brought on record to demonstrate the deprivations, humilities, handicaps, faced by the appellant or her children in their life,” the court noted.

Surname quandary

It further pointed out that after the divorce, the children continued to keep the surname of the father, going to show that they have projected themselves to the society as belonging to a forward community.

“Thanks to the appellant serving at a senior post in the Indian Air Force, her children have had the advantage of a safe, secure and sheltered environment, excellent schooling and other related opportunities,” the court observed.

“On the contrary, issuance of a caste certificate to the appellant’s children would result in depriving a genuine Schedule Caste person of an opportunity to claim entitlement to the limited number of Schedule Caste seats reserved in higher education and in service, thereby causing a setback to the equality goal enshrined in the Constitution,” the court said.

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